Yong-san 龍山 용산 means Dragon Hill. The exotic name had long been derived from the contour of the mountain range stretched toward Han River which in the eyes of the olden people reminded of a body of dragon. Without proper artificial levee along the Han River in the south, the Dragon Hill areas including current Samkakji had been often flooded. The writer of this article has the memory of the current Hankang Boulevard in front of the old Gate #1 flooded to some 40cm (16”) in late 1960s.
Now let’s look at what had happened and why Yongsan had become a cantonment for the Imperial Japanese Army some 114 years ago and the command post for the U.N./U.S. Forces Korea after the end of the World War II.
February 23, 1904
The article 4 of the Protocol 韓日議定書 singed between Joseon (Korea) and Imperial Japan Governments on February 23, 1904 reads in an unofficial translation as follows;
“The Imperial Japanese Government will take action without delay necessary measures in order to maintain the peace and order of the Royal Household of Korea and its territory, and the Imperial Daehan (Korea) Government shall provide all the conveniences to the Imperial Japanese Government in order to facilitate their actions. The Imperial Japanese Government holds the right to occupy lands at anytime in order to fulfil the above terms.”
An editorial of an old Korean paper in its November 20, 1905 reported; “Today, we cry out in lamentation” …Where does the Japanese Marquis Ito Hirobumi’s 伊藤博文 true intention lies? The Korean Government gave away 4,000 years of tradition and a 500 years old dynasty to other (Japan). They sold out this country in fear of false threats and delivered Joseon’s 20 million countrymen to be enslaved by other… (皇城新聞 November 20, 1905)
The Imperial Japan continued its efforts to make Joseon its own protectorate. Japan started the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, and as the war broke out, Japan deployed a large number of troops in Korea and demanded the Joseon government to assist Japan’s war efforts, pledging that Japan would fully support Joseon in escaping from the Russia’s influence. Japan also insisted that Joseon should consult Japanese consultants in making all of the diplomatic or financial decisions, arguing that such consultations would ultimately facilitate Joseon’s own efforts of modernization. When the war was over, Japan forced Joseon to sign the Eulsa-year treaty 乙巳條約*. After signing of the treaty, Japan intervened in every aspect of Korean governance. All their promises for Joseon’s independence and modernization turned out to be lies because Japan excluded the Koreans from administrating national affairs to build a colonial government of and for Japan.
However, things did not turn out as the Japanese had anticipated; angry Korean united to fight against the Japanese rules.
While the political invasion efforts are being made, the Japanese military had started construction of the military camp in Yongsan, or Dragon Hill, then outskirt of Kyeongseong (Seoul) and the first part of the construction was completed in March 1904.
In 1910, after six years of occupation, the Japanese Empire annexed Korea and immediately began a major building program to consolidate its political and military control over the country. It established the headquarters for the Imperial Japanese Army in Korea at Yongsan shortly after annexation. The Japanese compound included the areas known today as Yongsan Main and South Posts, Camp Coiner, Hannam Village, the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense, and the ROK War Museum. During its occupation from 1904 ~1945, the Japanese garrisoned the post with an infantry division headquarters for two infantry regiments, and a cavalry unit. In addition, they located the colonial administrative and governmental headquarters in the South Post.
World War II ended in 1945:
When World War II ended in 1945, the U.S. government sent Lt. General Hodge’s XXIV Corps to Korea to accept the surrender of Japanese forces south of the 38th Parallel.
In September, the U.S. 7th Infantry Division established its headquarters at Yongsan. It helped provide administration, order, and security of the southern zone pending establishment of a single government for the entire peninsula; however, a unified Korea proved impossible as the Soviets scaled the border at 38th Parallel and created a communist North Korean state.
All U.S. Forces, with the exception of the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG), departed Korea in mid-1949. At the request of the ROK government, the U.S. Military formed the KMAG at Yongsan to develop and train ROK security forces. These security forces were first organized into police constabularies and later became the foundation of the ROK Army.
North Korean began to invade ROK on June 25, 1950
When North Korean began to invade the democratic free country of South Korea, the country turned into a battlefield. Seoul changed hands four times between the communist and the United Nations Forces. The opposing armies inflicted substantial damages on the city and garrison. In 1952, U.S. Forces reestablished headquarters at Yongsan and began restoring the post. The Eighth U.S. Army moved its headquarters from Seoul National University (a former Medical School in Jaegi-dong, Seoul) to Yongsan on September 15, 1953.
On July 1, 1957, the United Nations Command (UNC) headquarters moved from Tokyo to Seoul in conjunction with an overall reorganization of U.S. Military Forces and command structures in the Pacific. Concurrently, the senior U.S. Army officer in Korea was designated Commander, U.S. Forces Korea, directly subordinate to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Pacific; he was also named Commander in Chief (CINC) UNC. Later, the Department of Defense established the USFK as a unified sub-command directly subordinate to the CINCPAC.
Over the years Yongsan Garrison went through three major building phases. From 1952 to 1955, the U.S. Army constructed many Quonset huts on Camp Coiner and other parts of the post for soldier billeting and offices. Through the 1960s to about 1972, the Army started replacing the Quonset huts with multi-story, concrete and steel barracks, concrete mess halls, and gymnasiums to improve the soldier living conditions. The third period of construction started about 1977 and went on into the 1990s. Construction included; new troop facilities, family units, schools, Bldg. 2310, and Dragon Hill Lodge, etc. Slowly, Yongsan changed from rows of olive drab Quonset huts to a modern installation.
As of August 2008, Yongsan garrison consisted of 630 acres and had about 2,500 military personnel assigned to its headquarters and support agencies. The major tenant organizations on Yongsan were the UNC/CFC/USFK Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army Headquarters, U.S. Navy Forces Korea, U.S. Marine Forces Korea, 8th Military Police Brigade Headquarters, 1st Signal Brigade Headquarters, U.S. Army Garrison, Yongsan Installation Management Command-Korea, (IMCOMK), and the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group – Korea (JUSMAG-K).
Approximately 1,000 U.S. and 6,000 Korean civilian employees augmented the U.S. Military. In addition, more than 1,000 Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) soldiers served on the base. Some 3,500 military and civilian employee family members resided on South Post. (Re: EUSA Handbook, 2011)
On November 2, 2018, Yongsan Garrison opened to public
Enduring unaccountable violations of the armistice agreement by North Korean soldiers and suffering considerable sacrifices, the U.N./U.S. Forces Korea have successfully maintained a cease fire in the Korean peninsula since after the armistice was signed in 1953.
On November 2, 2018, U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison finally opened its gates to Korean public temporarily, after the U.N./U.S. Forces including UNC/CFC/USFK Headquarters, 8th U.S. Army Headquarters, etc. have been relocated to Camp Humphreys, Pyeongtaek.
At this time, the team of yongsanlegacy.org (YSL) is refraining from repeating of the dialogs for the merits, or failings by the stationing of (not occupied by) the UN/USFK in the middle of Seoul Metropolitan City as they are, and will be, freely discussed, along with the U.N./U.S. veterans and civilians’ fond memories of Yongsan Garrison on yongsanlegacy.org. YSL, while maintaining a neutral stance, when it notices unbiased, flawed or distorted news about the U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison in the local media, YSL should attempt with its best to correct the distorted thoughts or false information which can happen due mainly to a potential language barrier.
U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison are nearly completing their relocation to a new home in Pyeongtaek, leaving behind fine memories of the 73 years of Yongsan legacy. K-6 or Camp Humphreys, is a fine region for your cantonment, with an abundant underground water source.
YSL team wishes you, USFK, all the best in the future. May your shadow never be less.
YSL Team, Seoul, November 12, 2018
*Eulsa-year treaty 乙巳條約, or Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905:
Eulsa Treaty, or Eulsa Unwilling Treaty of Japan-Korea Protectorate Treaty, was made between the Empire of Japan and the Korean empire in 1905. Negotiations were concluded on November 17, 1905. The treaty deprived Korea of its diplomatic sovereignty and made Korea a protectorate of Imperial Japan. It resulted from Imperial Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.
+ 용산의 역사를 찾아서 AD 97~1953, Yongsn-Gu Office/Yongsan Historian Kim Chun-su, July 2014.
+ Handbook of Natural and Cultural Resources, USAG Yongsan Installations, The Eight U.S. Army, Korea, April 25, 2011
+ Historical Walking Tour of Yongsan Garrison, USFK Command History Office
+ A Korean History for International Readers, November 15, 2010 Published by Humanist Publishing Group Inc.
+ The Dawn of Modern Korea. Andrei Lankov, Published by EunHaeng Namu, December 10, 2007.
+ 한국현대사 History of modern Korea, 서중석, 웅진지식하우스, August 15, 2018
+ National Museum of Contemporary History, Seoul.